Eastern Europe: Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes


Ever the culinary perfectionist, Dave did not deign to serve the Supperclub pre-made blintzes. Instead, he took a few moments to excuse himself to the kitchen to prepare this next, lovely course.  The rich aroma of butter was seductive, so much so that the less wise of us asked for two, not one, of these decadent blintzes upon their arrival to the table.

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes by David Tanis (modified)

Serves 8 -10.


Note from Dave: I changed the mushrooms to use porcini and crimini instead of chanterelles. I also tripled (!) the blintze (crepe) recipe.

Eastern Europe: Zwack! Cocktail Hour and the Perfect Challah


Chris proved his chops as a Master Mixologist with a survey of Zwack liqueurs from Hungary.  Not satisfied with shots of each of the liqueurs in their pure forms, he also treated us to 3 masterfully mixed cocktails bringing out the unique fruity character of each.

For a little history, Chris found this information on drinkhacker.com:

Zwack Unicum Liqueur – This spirit, originally crafted from more than 40 herbs and spices in 1790. Very bitter, it’s a digestif for the Fernet fan, with sweetness a distant afterthought. Pushing past the initial shock of bitterness, Unicum offers a heavy cinnamon note character, with orange peel beneath. Secondary notes include licorice, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and some wood, driven by the six months Unicum spends in oak barrels before bottling. This is a solid alternative to Fernet, offering its own take on the bitter liqueur without reinventing the category.

Zwack Liqueur – Alternately known as “Unicum Next” internationally, this is Unicum’s lighter-colored and far sweeter take on Unicum, clearly designed for a younger, more sweet-toothed audience. Slightly syrupy, Zwack is quite fruity, driven as I noted in my original review by cherry notes — though these are more of the cherry jelly variety than the fresh fruit. It’s quite a different beast than Unicum, one which lends itself to drinking as a shot, using as a mixer, and generally appealing to a more novice drinker. That’s neither good nor bad… but it’s not Unicum.

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur  – Take Unicum and age it instead for six months in oak casks on a bed of dried plums (huge in Hungary) and you have Unicum Plum. The nose isn’t immediately distinguishable from Unicum, licorice and spice notes. The body is instantly familiar, but brings more fruit to the table — a Port-like prune character that helps to balance out some of Unicum’s overwhelming bitterness. If you’re looking for something somewhere in between Unicum and Zwack on the bitter to sweet spectrum, Unicum Plum may fit the bill, though I find the bitter Unicum more exciting.

zwack shots


Zwack Cocktails


Adapted from recipe by Joaquín Simó, the New York City bartender best known for his work at Death and Co. and Pouring Ribbons. Unicum and Zwack are traditionally consumed as shots, but their herbal makeup gives you plenty to work with when mixing drinks.

Hungarian Orchard

1 ounce Zwack

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce fresh orange juice

Apple slices for garnish

Fresh grated cinnamon for garnish

Combine Zwack, apple brandy and orange juice into a cocktail with ice and shake vigorously. Strain contents into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices and fresh grated cinnamon.

Masked Man

1/2 ounce Unicum

1 ounce apple brandy

1/2 ounce pumpkin spice syrup

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Grated nutmeg for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain contents into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Unicum Plum Cobbler

1 ounce Unicum Plum

1/2 ounce aperitif (I used apple brandy)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 tbsp strawberry preserves

3 dashes aromatic bitters

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a Nick & Nora glass (or a coupe). Garnish with lemon peel.


Both to serve as a warm and meaningful welcome, and to to ensure that the Spicebox Supperclubbers could make it through the meal, Dave presented us with a beautiful challah.


Dave writes,

We were going for two different traditions with the bread:

Slavic tradition of welcoming distinguished guests with bread and salt.


Jewish tradition of serving challah with salt.

From a culinary point of view, the salt provided a nice flavor contrast to the slight sweetness of the dough and the raisins.  The recipe from the challah comes from Zabar’s, that great New York deli, to which Dave’s family has a personal connection (almost could have been related!)

Simple Sweet Challah
from Andrea Watman


This is my favorite Challah recipe. It is easy to make – and the sweet taste of the bread is just wonderful. I serve it warm with honey on Rosh Hashanah. Growing up my Grandma Bertha made dinner every Friday night. She set a beautiful table with a Challah as the centerpiece. No, she didn’t bake it – she walked to 161st Street and Gerard Avenue in the Bronx – to The G & R Bakery. If you lived anywhere near Yankee Stadium The G & R Bakery was where you met on Friday’s. You had to go early in the day because there would always be a line. The Challah was so shiny that as I child I thought it was polished. For years I tried to bake Challah and could never master it. This recipe has never failed me – so I hope you’ll give it a try.

2 packages dry yeast
2/3 Cup Warm Water (110 degrees)
5 Egg Yolks – Lightly Beaten
3 Whole Eggs – Lightly Beaten
7 Tablespoons Corn Oil
½ Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 Egg Yolk – Beaten
Poppy Seeds (optional)

1. In cup or small bowl dissolve Yeast in the warm water with approx 1 tablespoon of sugar. After just a few minutes the yeast should begin to “bloom”. It will become foamy and it will give off a sweet smell. If your yeast is not fresh this will not happen – do not go any further – start over with fresh yeast.

2. In a large bowl mix Egg Yolks, Eggs, Oil, remaining Sugar, Salt and Yeast mixture.

3. Add enough flour to form stiff but sticky dough (you can do this in a stand mixer – using the dough hook attachment).

4. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) – about 6 minutes – work in raisins as kneading.

5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl and turn dough so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in warm area to double in bulk – about two hours.

6. Punch down and knead briefly.

7. Roll dough into a 24” long rope. Create a spiral round loaf. (Sometimes I divide the dough into three parts, then I make three smaller ropes and braid them – then I form a circle from with the braid).

8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

9. Brush loaf with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle top with poppy seeds (if desired), and allow too rise until dough doubles in size – about 45 minutes.

10. Bake until golden brown in a pre-heated 375 degree oven – 35 to 40 minutes.

11. Allow to cool before slicing and enjoy!


Did you enjoy this sample of Eastern European food and drink? Visit the overview of our menu and come back next week for the delightful first course.  Thanks for coming by!

Spicebox Supperclub: Eastern Europe Edition

challah map

From the warm rhythms of Trinidad, the Spicebox Supperclub took a journey to a very different place– the cultures of Eastern Europe.  This was to celebrate the heritage of our hosts, Dave and Rani, whose heritage trace to many parts of Eastern Europe.  Rani’s ancestry includes Croatian, Lithuanian and Polish and Dave’s, Ukrainian Jew and Polish/Belarusian Jew.

For this Supperclub, we went all out, to also dress in the style of our theme.  It was interesting to discover that “Eastern European dress” did not mean the black and wine velvet that Heather and Linda imagined.  Rather, flowing white cotton blouses and skirts elaborately embroidered in colorful patterns appear to be traditional, including headdresses for the advanced.  Somehow, the women managed to carry it off.  Rani made a great find at a local thrift shop, accentuated by an apron from her daughter’s collection.  Diana borrowed a convincing headdress from her daughter, purchased from a grandparent’s trip to Eastern Europe.  And Heather and Linda both managed to assemble Eastern European outfits from their everyday wardrobes (not sure what that says!).

e eur womendaveThe men were less embroidered, with Peter, the Island Boy, excepted.  In face, somber hues of charcoal and black seemed to be the unspoken theme, and appropriately dour for Eastern European history.

e eur men

And the food was fresh and inventive, yet true to theme.  Here’s an overview of the menu:

Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #4, May 3, 2014

Eastern Europe

e eur table


Hosts: Rani and Dave

Executive Chef: Dave

Bartender: Chris

Sommelier: Peter

Pastry Chefs: Heather and Nalin



Sweet Challah served with salt


Zwack Unicum Liqueur

Zwack Liqueur

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur

Hungarian Orchard

Masked Man

Unicum Plum Cobbler

Main Courses:

Eastern European “Salade nicoise”

Coronica Malvasia 2012 (Istria, Northern Croatia)

Russian borscht

2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos (Hungary)

Chicken and wild mushroom blintzes

2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló (Hungary)

Sarma (Croatian cabbage rolls) with olive oil mashed potatoes

Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011 (Austria)


Pickled carrots
Pickled turnips and beets
Dill pickles (cukes)


Apricot filled dumplings

Chocolate Beet Cake

Oranges in rosemary syrup with crushed pistachios

Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007 (Tokaj, Hungary)

2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (Tokaj, Hungary)


And here’s a bit from Sommelier Peter, who delved deeply into the history of Eastern European wines:

Coronica Malvasia 2012

Coronica was established in 1992 by Moreno Coronica after the fall of communist Yugoslavia.  Today he lives in his family home with his wife children and father who still prefers to speak in Italian.  He is dismissive of wines that boast of flavors foreign to Istria, like tropical fruits, as for the ‘market’. To quote Moreno, “wine must taste like wine”.
He professes a faith in the terroir of Istria and its indigenous varieties and strives to develop his own ability to interpret them.

Moreno Coronica’s Malvazija is considered a benchmark example of this indigenous version. It represents almost 75% of his entire production. Peppery citrus, sea shells and bright without being overshadowed by acid alone. In lieu of Garrigue, Croatians champion ‘Freškina’ (sent of the sea) – imagine the sun beating down on rocks covered in seaweed.  Malvasia Istriana, one of Friuli’s favorite grapes, is named for the rust-colored soil of Istria in northern Croatia, where it originates. Like many of its Italian cousins, Coronica Malvasia 2012 smells of Meyer lemons and the sweet-scented acacia that blankets the countryside.

2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos

J and J Eger Wine Company is the product of an unexpected partnership between Canadian born Hungarian and Master Sommelier John Szabo and physician and Eger native and winemaker Dr. János Stumpf. Ultimately it was their shared fascination with the cool North Hungarian terroir of Eger and the exotic mineral rich reds, made from the local variety Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch). Their tiny 500 case production, more a professionally attended to hobby than a production is based around prime parcels of vineyards located on the steepest most exposed hill overlooking the town of Eger. The soil here is almost completely limestone overlaid with a thin layer of clay.

The 2009 is a revelatory balancing act between acid and gripping pungency. Harmonious, layered, and age worthy, the wines of J&J Eger Wine Company have the potential to be legendary. Still very much in its youth, it is a deep garnet hued wine with a perfume that leaps from the glass. Complex aromas of cranberry sandalwood and rose hips contrast its not so subtle minerality. Though grown in limestone it smells of granite. Rich without being overripe, the structured and savory almost herbal nature of the variety and its fresh acidity make this wine versatile for the table as well. Pair with herbed pheasant, lamb, pungent creamy cheeses and whole grain based dishes like barley or faro. For the authentic experience try Dr. Stumpf’s recommendation of wild venison sausage.

The 2007 was Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine “It drinks like a Rhône syrah in terms of the depth of fruit; but it feels more like Burgundy – it has that sort of texture and acidity. One of the most successful pairings we’ve ever done with it is a 16-hour sous vide belly crisped in skillet. It’s good with duck, too; some people even drink it with fish.” —Santos Uy, somm/owner Papilles and Mignon, Los Angeles

2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló

Juhfark (Sheep’s tail) is a distinctive, almost extinct white grape variety found almost exclusively in Somló. The clusters are long, tightly packed and curve a little at the end hence the Sheep’s tail moniker. Naturally very high in acidity, it’s also fairly neutral on its own and instead absorbs and communicates the volcanic terroir rather than pronounced fruit flavors. However, after a few years in bottle this wine really comes alive. According to Bay Area restaurateur Jeff Berlin, “it’s the ultimate yin and yang wine in that it is at once rich, opulent and elegant but has such prominent veins of volcanic ash and minerality running through it at the same time. Super sexy, both masculine and feminine, like a Caligulan feast in a glass.” Although Béla recommends drinking it with roasted wild fowl, Middle Eastern flavors like green olives, roasted red pepper and Za’atar are all amazing flavor combinations.

90 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine for the 2009 vintage: “At 84 years old, Fekete Bela still tends his ten acres of vineyard in Somló by himself, lending some credence to the old Hungarian belief that Juhfark has health-giving properties. His version is as sharp and mineral as a Fino Sherry, with a wooly lanolin-like texture padding the searing acidity. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it would make short work of grilled bluefish.

Want to learn to pronounce it like a native? Here’s a short video clip from one of Peter’s residents:


Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011

Zweigelt is a dark-skinned grape that has, since its development in 1922, become Austria‘s most widely planted red-wine variety. This high-yielding vine is now grown in almost every Austrian wine region from Bergland in the west to Burgenland in the east. Following its success in Austria, the variety is now becoming popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Small-scale plantings have also been trialed further afield, in Canada, Japan and England.  A crossing of Saint-Laurent with Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt was developed by Dr Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Zweigelt, the viticulturist after whom it is named.  Farmed biodyamically, the juice ferments on its native yeasts and it finally aged in large neutal oak casks for about eight months.

FROM THE WINEMAKER: “Grown in mineral rich, stony soil in the country surrounding the village of Frauenkirchen, a very warm and dry soil adds a mineral taste. The resulting wine is dark red with purple rim, peppery and fruity aromas in the nose, on the palate cherries and spicy notes with impressions of chocolate, fine, mild and full-bodied finish.”
TRY WITH: Spicy dishes and game.

Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007

Although born in the sweet wine appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont in France, Samuel Tinon has chosen Tokaj as the best place to grow wine and raise his three children. He’s also quick to remind us all that Tokaj was the favored drink and muse for Leo Tolstoï, Pablo Néruda, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Diderot, and Voltaire, so he’s already in good company. As the first Frenchman to settle in Tokaj in the modern privatization era, he’s also convinced that Tokaj possesses all the same greatness as Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy.

Originally called Ordinárium (ordinary wine) in the 1600’s, Főbor (prime wine) after that, and later, due to the immense popularity in the Polish market, Szamorodni (as comes off the vine) became the official name (itself a Polish word) in the early 1800’s. In short, this refers to healthy, shriveled and botrytized grapes all being harvested and fermented together. However, dry Szamorodni goes a few steps further by adding Claspodorium cellare (a special mold that covers the entire cellar) and a native yeast veil (flor) that protects the wine in barrel.

93 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine: “Samuel Tinon grew up in Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, a sweet wine appellation in Bordeaux, and came to Tokaj in 1991, to work at Oremus. He ended up buying a house and two hectares of 90-year-old vines in Olaszliszka, and started producing his own wines in 2000. Tinon looks to the old tradition of aging wine under a veil of yeast for his Szamorodni and ages it long enough for evaporation to drop the alcohol to less than 15 percent. It smells like an Amontillado Sherry, all nuts, button mushrooms and salt; it feels succulent with crisp green fruit, fresh radish and a scent that recalls a moist, chalky underground cellar. As easy to drink as a Fino with fried things and grilled vegetables, this will last for months in the fridge after opening, ready to incite an appetite.

Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine Pascaline Lepeltier pours this at Rouge Tomate in NYC is pouring it with her tasting menu—”to go with a porcini farrotto with some Anson Mills farro piccolo, a little bit of parmesan and a white asparagus espuma—you also have a little bit of white and green asparagus, and some roasted porcini.

2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos

Better known for its paprika than its wine, Hungary is nonetheless one of Eastern Europe’s most significant wine-producing countries. Exerjo, Furmint, Hárslevelü and Mezesfeher are just some of the indigenous (and unpronounceable!) varieties most widely planted. And Tokaji is Hungary’s biggest success story. Made since the sixteenth century, Tokaji is an extremely sweet wine that was adored by the Russian Tsars. It is made in a manner similar to Sherry, and is reputed to be the longest lived, non-fortified wine in existence (a few hundred years is not unheard of).

93 points Wine Spectator: A ripe, lush sweetie, with bright acidity backing notes of golden raisin, dried apricot and pineapple that linger through the spicy finish. Drink now through 2024. 2,500 cases made. –NW (6/ 2013)

Thanks for visiting! Appetite whetted? Come back next week for cocktail hour!

Spicebox Supperclub: Trini Carnival

SBSC menu

A few weeks ago we got a turn to host the third Spicebox Supperclub, chez Spicebox! In honor of Mr. Spicebox’s Trinidadian roots and Trinidad’s famous/infamous Carnival, which was held the same weekend as our dinner, the theme was Trini Carnival.  We had a menu custom designed, typeset and illustrated by our younger daughter, including a drawing of Trinidad’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.

Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #2 March 1, 2014

Trini Carnival

Hosts: Linda and Peter

Executive Chef: Linda (aka Spicebox Travels)

Bartender: Dave

Sommelier: Nalin

Pastry Chef: Chris


Cocktail: The Spicebox Cocktail (custom created by Dave for this occasion and this wonderful group of Supperclubbers!)



Baigan (Eggplant) Choka on Cocount Bake

First Course:

Callaloo with Macaroni Pie

Second Course:

Project Runway Pelau

Third Course (prepared by Peter):

Trini Curry Chicken with Dal


Cassava Pone (and a story!)

Mango Rum Smoothie


Wine List (carefully curated by Nalin to complement the spicy, Indian-influenced menu):

wine glasses

Von Winning

Deidesheimer ParadiesGarten

Riesling 2012

A new and dry style Riesling. Very clean with upfront minerality, and then a slight amount of sugar at the end. Nicely complements small appetizers with strong flavors.

Von Winning Winery founded in 1849, vineyards in Ruppertsberg, Deidesheim, and Forst. District of Pfalz, adjacent to the Trier/Koblenz regions.

Paradiesgarten (Deidesheim) appx. 30 ha (74 acres); hillside west of Deidesheim above the village, close to the woods, orientation: east-southeast sandstone statue “Eve in Paradise” was built by our winery.

Name: named in the 1950s by our estate’s former owner due to the paradise-like location Soil: top soil: loam to loamy sand, loessial loam (several meters thick at some points), subsoil: new red sandstone.

Winemaker description: “A Riesling with a juicy flavour of yellow fruits, reminiscent of mandarins and yellow plums combined with a fresh citrus aroma, a wine full of elegance and finesse. Depending on the vintage, it is fermented up to one third in 500 and 1200 litre wooden barrels.”

This wine is referred to as a Grosses Gewächs – (great growth), a designation used by VDP members in all regions except Mosel and Rheingau to designate top-level dry wines from selected sites. Used by the organisation Bernkasteler Ring for the same purpose in Mosel.


Zeltinger Schlossberg

Kabinett Riesling, 2012

Classic Riesling with a clean taste on the palate and some residual sugar, particularly at the end. Balances and complements the strong flavors of a spicy dinner.

Traditional ‘Mittelmosel’ location with Riesling planted on steep, south-facing terraces by the Mosel River. In the state of Rhineland-Pfalz.

Zeltinger Schlossberg. Steep slope, medium grained Devonian slate as topsoil with medium-deep subsoil of slate and loam.

Prädikatswein, renamed from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) (superior quality wine). Translated as “quality wine with specific attributes”, this is the top level of German wines. These prominently display a Prädikat on the label and may not be chaptalized. Prädikatswein range from dry to intensely sweet, but unless it is specifically indicated that the wine is dry or off-dry, these wines always contain a noticeable amount of residual sugar. Prädikatswein must be produced from allowed varieties in one of the 39 subregions (Bereich) of one of the 13 wine-growing regions, although it is the region rather than the subregion which is mandatory information on the label.

Kabinett – literally “cabinet”, meaning wine of reserve quality to be kept in the vintner’s cabinet fully ripened light wines from the main harvest, typically semi-sweet with crisp acidity, but can be dry if designated so.

For the following wines, I chose a theme of 2000, since it was a special year for me. I had a couple of wines from that year so they’ve had a chance to hang out for some time.

Chateau Rol Valentin

Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Bordeaux 2000

Very small Bordeaux vineyard (4.6 hectares). The Saint-Emilion region is in the Libournais area of the right bank. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is a region adjacent to the main region of Saint-Emilion and Rol Valentin is considered one of the newer ‘garagiste’ wines that are characterized by strong flavors, perhaps reflecting less on the terroir. This wine does display a terrific balance that is typical of Bordeaux wines. The wine is mostly Merlot (85%), with equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It does not taste like a typical new world Merlot, lacking the soft and mild flavors of the latter.

This wine was now 14 years old and ready for drinking. It had a lovely mouthfeel with a smooth finish on the palate. It complemented the strongly flavored curry dishes nicely.

Sequoia Grove

Napa Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

A traditional Napa Valley maker of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, from the Oakville/Rutherford appellations. The winery sits on 22 acres in the heart of the valley floor in an important region referred to as the Rutherford Bench. I’ve always regarded this wine as a great example of the good (flavor) and bad (tannins) of the region. After some time stored away, the tannins were surprisingly still present, but much softened. The winery refers to themselves as making ‘Bordeaux-style’ wines, but I don’t think that’s entirely true given their tendency to stay true to Cabernet Sauvignon. Their single vineyard Cabs command prices in the $100/bottle range.

Jost Vineyards

Nova Scotia

Vidal Ice Wine 2000

The grapes used to produce this icewine were grown in the Warner Vineyard in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. During the coldest mornings of December (temperatures between -8 C and -14 C) the frozen grapes were harvested and pressed. The pressing yields a golden nectar which was high in sugar, flavour and balance giving acidity. A cool, slow fermentation resulted in a very complex, full bodied dessert wine. This wine still preserved its character after a long time in storage. It has that clean but flavorful taste typical of icewines.

The following description of the icewine process comes from the vineyard:

The precious juice for icewine is pressed from grapes that have been subjected to the harshness of winter, temperatures of at least -8°C for a couple of days. At these temperatures, the water portion of each grape separates from the sugar, flavour and acid components. The water freezes and crystallizes, leaving the other components as suspended liquid drops among the water crystals. The liquid drops are very concentrated, with sugar and flavour levels two to three times higher than juice from grapes harvested in the fall, and are carefully extracted from the grapes by gentle pressing. Pressing, as does the harvesting of the grapes, takes place outside. The grapes must not be allowed to warm up (neither can the pickers or the pressing crew!) or the sugar content of the juice will be reduced. Once the juice of the frozen grapes is collected, the sugar level must be at least average 35 Brix (35%sugar). The icewine juice is then fermented, a process which takes about 6 months to complete.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve just been to wine school! (Not whine school; I’ve already gotten my degree from there.)  Nalin’s carefully chosen wine list taught me to appreciate Rieslings, which I had previously dismissed as syrupy. I also enjoyed the chance to understand the process of making ice wine and the reminder that Nalin is from Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland!

Cheers, and come back next week for the specially created Spicebox Cocktail from Dave!  For now, enjoy a selection from one of Nalin’s favorite reggae artists, Matisyahu:

Comida Porteño: Choripan y Chimichurri

choripanOh, that locro was ¡que rico! But there was much more.  Chef Chris moved us quickly along to the heart and soul of Argentine cuisine: meat.  Up first, some sausages.  The Argentines have perfected the condiment which brings out the best in their wonderful meat dishes, the equally deliciously named chimichurri (which has an intriguing etymology, see below).  Hungry? Me, too.  Read on…


Choripan is a sandwich with chorizo sausage and bread (pan = bread in Spanish), hence the name. We had choripan as an appetizer with asado (grilled meats) at several parrillas, the ubiquitous “steak houses” throughout Buenos Aires. It reminds me of really good Italian sausages I have had outside Fenway Park before a Red Sox game, but without the peppers and onions or mustard.  Similarly, choripan is eaten at Argentine football (or soccer) games. Argentine chorizo is normally made of pork or beef. Chorizo is often thought of as spicy but Argentine chorizo isn’t. Instead, red spicy chorizo is Spanish or Mexican chorizo.

Chorizo is cooked on an open flame grill and split down the middle lengthwise (butterflied). The high heat of the grill chars the meat and fat to delicious effect.  It is served on a grilled (toasted) soft and chewy roll, sort of a cross between a hot dog bun or dinner roll. In general, the bread we had in BA was excellent and this was no different. The typical accompaniment  is chimichurri which can be added sparingly or generously….very tasty! Chimichurri is made with garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar. The typical green chimichurri we see in the U.S. gets its color from an abundance of finely chopped parsley. The chimichurri we had in BA was often reddish from addition of minced red bell pepper.


Serves 6-8

2 lbs uncooked Argentine chorizo sausage (we found at a local San Francisco grocery catering to Argentine products, Evergreen Market.)

8-12 rolls or hot dog style buns (we used dinner rolls from Acme Bread Co. purchased fresh at the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, CA)

Chimichurri sauce (we brought back packets of dried chimichurri spices that we received on our Parrilla Tour in Buenos Aires and reconstituted with olive oil and vinegar).



If you want to make from scratch here is a recipe from the blog Inside Buenos Aires posted by the Fierro Hotel Staff. They say that chimichurri is a traditional sauce made from herbs, garlic and vinegar that is used on meat at asados.  It is said that the name of the sauce comes from the British. Allegedly, the English men associated the spice-based sauce with curry, so when they wanted it they said “give me curry” which was locally understood as chimichurri.


1 cup water

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp coarse salt

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp thyme

1 Tbsp ground chili pepper

1 Bay leaf

Fresh parsley

5 garlic cloves, chopped


Heat the water, vinegar and salt until they boil.

Mix all the other ingredients except for the oil and incorporate them to the water mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature.

Add the oil.

Store covered in a glass jar. Make it a few days ahead to enhance the flavor.


This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next week for another delicioso recipe from Argentina!

Comida Porteño: Empanadas


After being welcomed by pisco cocktails and centered by a few rounds of yerba mate, we began with a classic and mouthwatering appetizer: empanadas.  Chef Chris has kindly described the two types of empanadas he prepared:

Empanadas are common and everyone seems to have their favorite empanada joint. We went to several places and all were very good. Empanadas are common throughout Latin and South America. In Argentina, empanadas are baked although each region has their own differences. Common flavors were Carne (usually chopped steak with red peppers, green olives and hard boiled egg), Jamon y queso, Humita (mashed corn with red peppers and cheese). There are also sweet kinds with dulce de leche and coated with sugar.

Empanada de Carne (adapted from recipe on blog “From Argentina with Love”: Mendoza-Style Empanadas from the Oliva-Quiroz family).

empanada beef

Traditionally,  ground beef or chopped steak is used. We exchanged for short ribs prepared the day before with our slow cooker for fantastic juicy meat.

makes about one dozen

1 lb Short ribs, trimmed. slow cooked in slow cooker for 8 hours on low setting

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

8oz tomato paste

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 Tbs smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

~6-10 green olives, pitted and cut into slices

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper, to taste

12 empanada rounds (tapas): we bought brand La Saltena at a local grocery store that specializes in Argentine food products (Evergreen Market in the Mission District of San Francisco.) We used estilo hojaldre, which makes a flakier crust.

1 egg, beaten, for glazing

1 glass water, to seal edges

Note: The meat can be made a day/s in advance and keep in refrigerator.


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until they start to become translucent, then add in the beef. Cook the ground beef, chopping as it cooks with a flat spatula to maintain ground beef texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the beef has cooked through, then taste for salt and pepper, and stir in the paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and mix well.

Or, use our variation with slow cooker. Trim short ribs and cut into 2-3 inch chunks. As above, sauté onions then stir in paprika, cumin, tomato paste and crushed red pepper. Then transfer to slow cooker. Next, heat more olive oil on medium-high heat and sear short ribs on each side for 1 minute each. Do not cook through. Place short ribs in slow cooker. Pour in warm water to add some liquid but not too much (about ½-1 cup). Cook on low setting for about 8 hours. When cool, shred meat into smaller pieces and return to remaining sauce.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the tapas on a lightly floured work surface. With a tablespoon, put a little of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. Add a piece or two of green olive and hard boiled egg.

For sealing, you’ll need a small glass of water. Moisten the edge on the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.

Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!

Empanadas de Humita

(also adapted from recipe on blog “From Argentina with Love”)

empanada humitas

10 ears of fresh corn

1 medium-sized onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup cornstarch

about six roasted piquillo peppers or three roasted red bell peppers

one teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

12 tapas or discos for empanadas, either store-bought or homemade (we used La Saltena)

1 egg, beaten

Shuck the corn, removing all hulls and silk, and rinse the ears under cold water. Then, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the kernels into a large bowl. Rotate the ear around, grating the ear of corn, until all the kernels have been grated off. Slide the flat edge of a butter knife down the edge of the ear of corn all around to release any additional starchy juices into the bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onion, and heat the oil in a medium-sized non-reactive sauce pan to medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, but not browned, lowering the heat if needed. Add in the grated corn and stir to incorporate.

Bring the corn mixture to a boil (it will just sort of bubble up slowly) and continue to boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add in the cornstarch and stir to incorporate, and continue to cook at a simmer until the mixture thickens, about a half hour. Meanwhile, dice the peppers. Stir the peppers into the corn mixture, then add in the salt, crushed red pepper, and grated Mozzarella, and stir to incorporate.

Remove the mixture from heat and let cool completely, first on the stovetop and then in the refrigerator–this helps a lot in getting the mixture to thicken and make a good spoonful of filling. When the humitas have cooled completely, you’re ready to fill the empanadas.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.

Lay out the tapas four at a time on a clean countertop, lightly dusted with flour. Put out a small glass of water for sealing the empanadas, along with a small glass with one beaten egg, for brushing over the empanadas before baking.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the humitas filling in the center of the empanada shell.

For sealing, you’ll need a small glass of water. Moisten the edge on the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead. (Make sure there is a good seal, some of ours had leaks!)

Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!

This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Please visit previous posts and come back soon– there’s more food to come, plus dessert!

Spicebox Supperclub Numero Dos: Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino


We’re back! For our second Spicebox Supperclub, we travelled vicariously through our gracious and dashing hosts, Chris and Diana, who prepared an ambitious (and meaty) menu inspired by their recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Chris and Diana dressed the part: Chris wore a tux with a fearless scarlet shirt underneath, and Diana worse a gossamer long black gown with lovely embroidered flowers.  They looked ready to tango, but alas, we were not so lucky to be treated to a performance.

We were warned beforehand: Argentine cuisine loves meat.  There was meat in nearly every course, save the cocktails and dessert.  When there was not meat, there was liquor, starting with the cocktails and ending with dessert.

Chris and Diana were the only ones in the Supperclub who had been to Buenos Aires, but they shared some of their new cultural knowledge.  The beautiful tablescape was flanked with several pinguinos, or penguin shaped wine carafes, a popular way to serve house wine dating to mid-Century Buenos Aires.  (It’s surprisingly difficult to find information on the history of these cute wine vessels, but according to one blog, the only reason for their popularity is that Argentina is home to four species of penguins.)

We also learned about the ritual of sharing a gourd of yerba mate, which we’ll revisit in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, “Porteño” refers to residents of Buenos Aires.

All of this information made the rest of us want to experience Buenos Aires for ourselves.  Chris and Diana advised us, based upon their experience, to make sure to include a full weekend in Buenos Aires– because that’s when the city comes to life, starting with markets and finishing with nightlife going late into the night.  Duly noted!

Here’s what we ate:

Spicebox Supperclub Numero Dos, Saturday, November 23, 2013

Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino 

Hosts: Chris and Diana

Executive Chef: Chris

Bartender:  Nalin

Sommelier: Dave

Pastry Chef: Linda



Pisco Sour


Ritual Drink

Yerba Mate

Small Plates

Empanadas de Carne y Empanadas de Humita



Main Courses

Parilla: Bife de Ojo (rib eye) y Entraña (skirt steak) con Chimichurri Argentino

Spinach torta



Tres Leches Cake

And for a musical lagniappe, here’s “Buenos Aires” from 1996’s “Evita,” a personal favorite of Peter’s.  It will get you in the mood for the rest of our Buenos Aires/Porteño dinner (and hopefully you’re a fan of Madonna and musicals!).

Come back in the next few weeks, where we’ll be posting the details and recipes from our Porteño dinner.